5 Best Tuesday Columns

On "web mirroring," WikiLeaks in Russia, and the failing war on inequality

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  • The Boston Globe on WikiLeaks and the Kremlin  Americans are "entitled" to be angry about Julian Assange's "anarchistic attitude" toward his release of nearly 250,000 US diplomatic documents, finds The Boston Globe's Editorial Board. Yet in countries with "widespread corruption"--like Russia, for example--the leaks should be viewed "differently." Novaya Gazeta, the "foremost" independent daily publication in the country will publish WikiLeaks documents that disclose "ties to organized crime at the highest echelons of the country's power elite." The publication looks to "verify" and "expand" on the WikiLeaks revelations. While this sounds like a "double standard" is being held in the cases of WikiLeaks and the U.S. and Russia, the Board notes that the Russian government has been known for repressive, "often-bloody attempts to avoid this type of scrutiny." Reporters who have delved into corruption in the country have been beaten or killed. If the principal investor's in Novaya Gazeta can "expose Kremlin wrongdoing and still survive, then change may, in fact, be coming to Russia," the Globe's editors believe.
  • Steven Johnson on Linking e-Books to the Web  "One of the most thrilling digital developments of 2010 was the arms race between e-book readers," writes The Financial Times columnist. But for all the innovations of the Kindle, the Nook and the "breakthrough" iPad have done for the reading world, they have yet to marry the "richest source of information in the world" (i.e. carefully edited books) with the ecosystem of commentary, archiving and social sharing of the web. A new convention of the digital revolution must be "web mirroring," figures Johnson. That is, "every page of every book should have a shadow version of itself that lives on the web" that can be linked to by other commenters (even if it is behind a paywall). In today's encroaching "walled gardens" version of the internet, there is a danger that linking will become "less relevant." If prioritized, web mirroring will bring together the "two most transformative textual platforms of the modern age: the book and the web."
  • Jacob Weisberg on Obama's Failing War on Inequality  "Wasn't reversing the decades-long trend toward income inequality supposed to be the big theme of the Obama administration?" wonders the Slate columnist. Although the President has trumpeted this theme in his rhetoric, he's been "ineffective" in addressing such concerns. Even though statistics show that income inequality is only getting worse in the United States, Obama appears to have conceded the estate tax fight, failed to curb "outsized" Wall Street compensation, or raise working-class incomes. Why is income inequality proving to be an "intractable" problem? Somehow, "wide majorities" support tax law changes that benefit only tiny majorities, and "rich people want to be thought of as middle class, while those in the middle class identify with the economic interests of an upper class they have only a remote chance of joining." The president can be faulted for "failing to articulate" the "abstract threat" of income inequality in a way that Americans can appreciate, Weisberg concludes: "Like the deficit, income inequality never killed anybody--it merely has the potential to sap the entire country's health and spirit."
  • The New York Times Celebrates GE's Agreement to Clean Up the Hudson River  An editorial in today's New York Times hails General Electric's recent commitment to remove polychorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Hudson River. GE is responsible for discharging nearly 1.3 million pounds of the toxic chemicals, which were found to be possible carcinogens, into the river over three decades. Since the Hudson was declared a federal Superfund site 25 years ago, GE has resisted taking control of the cleanup. "The shift is in its thinking is overdue but entirely welcome," the New York Times editors write. "G.E.'s decision to proceed with Phase 2 is good for both its image and for the environment. The project is expected to take between five and seven years and may eventually cost more than $1 billion. Obviously, there will be glitches along the way, but G.E. has already built an impressive dredging facility near Fort Edward. And if any company has the drive, technical expertise and money to get the job done, it is this one."
  • The Wall Street Journal Urges Military Tribunals at Guantanamo  The editors at The Wall Street Journal are baffled by the lack of military tribunals held for the detainees at Guantanamo, pointing out that without trial, terrorism suspects must either be released or detained indefinitely. They argue that recent initiatives by the White House to cut spending for the Pentagon to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. and to allow unending detention prove President Obama has recognized the fault with his initial stance on closing Guantanamo. The editors argue that military tribunals would be more effective than holding prisoners indefinitely and that "refusing to try the likes of KSM and other terrorists also denies the families of 9/11 victims the sense of justice done. ... Nazis Hermann Goering and Adolf Eichmann were sentenced to hang for their crimes, but KSM and Ramzi bin al Shibh get three squares a day and the hope that someday they might be released."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.